1932: Primitive Areas Policy Memorandum

The L-20 Regulation was not embraced by all agency officials at the time. An April 25, 1932, memo for branch chiefs noted, "Since most of the Branch chiefs apparently disapprove the primitive area policy or its application, I should like to have the subject discussed at the next Service Committee meeting, to determine wherein the differences of opinion lie..."

An attached memorandum outlined the existing view of primitive areas and what protections they did or did not afford:

"Primitive areas, as the name implies, are areas, usually remote, within which there is an absence of use, development, and the more modern facilities for travel and subsistence comforts, and which will continue in all probability to represent outstanding regions of this character. Their identification, designation and planned administration as representative of the primitive is in recognition of the appeal and benefits to the public seeking such environment for recreation. The character and extent of use on them should be gauged by their relative value to the public without development and the demand for their resources to meet specific needs, since in primitive areas as elsewhere in National Forests the principle of highest use will prevail. If on this basis it is determined that there should be partial or complete restriction or postponement of utilization of timber or forage or reservoir sites or special use areas, that fact should be recorded and the principle should govern in the planned management of the primitive area.

It is to be expected that the choice of primitive areas will be confined to those areas within which use or development inconsistent with the continuance of primitive conditions is not contemplated. However, primitive areas are not natural areas under another name. If the withdrawal proposed is to preserve the vegetative cover in an unmodified condition, the land should be placed under withdrawal as a natural area."

Lists of existing natural areas, primitive areas, and experimental forests are attached to these memoranda and are linked here.


"Correspondence concerning recreation planning and primitive area policies on the national forests" [Memorandum for Branch Chiefs], April 25, 1932.